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March 23, 1984

My Anatomy Teacher

Author Affiliations

Temple, Tex

JAMA. 1984;251(12):1551. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340360019007

I was a new intern with the creases hardly out of my lab coat when one of my patients, an elderly gentleman with pneumonia, died. I heard his autopsy announced over the page system. The page operator droned, "Doctor Mortimer Post"—the hospital's attempt at medical humor—but appropriate for an autopsy. I had come from a large medical school where we were required to attend our patients' autopsies; therefore, a large crowd of people used to assemble and some jostling usually occurred among the medical students to get a spot in the back row where they would not have to answer questions fired by the pathologist. At the university, the important remains of the patient were exhibited in a large specimen pan; hence the name "Man in the Pan" conferences. The value of these conferences escaped me then, and now my presence was not even required. I was tired, having been